Shauna Lee Strecker fell in love with butter in kindergarten. It was the mid-1960s, and her class at school had spent the day learning how to hand-churn the condiment, slathering the finished product onto matzo crackers and devouring them. “You really got the nuances of the butter that way,” says Strecker, who grew up in Denver. “It was a very visceral experience for me and I never forgot it.”
After working as a touring musician and home designer-contractor for decades, Strecker’s passion for butter became her career in 2018, when she opened Bella La Crema—the world’s first butter bar—in Lyons. There, she produces 20 varieties of flavored, cultured butters using low-heat pasteurized, non-homogenized, organic cream sourced from grass-fed cows. “Ultra-heat pasteurization and homogenization strip out the essential elements (of the butter),” Strecker says, but not hers, which retains a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids and healthy strains of bacteria.
Strecker sources the cream for her butters from 12 different farms across the East Coast, which she cultures, churns, and flavors with hand-ground spices and herbs like lavender, cloves, and rosemary. The process, which can take up to two days, results in a silkier, richer, probiotic-packed product.
At Bella La Crema, a butter flight ($12) comes with four melon-ball-size dollops of butter and a warm half baguette. The flights are prearranged, depending on what’s available, but Strecker tries to consistently feature two savory and two sweet flavors. Each variety is given a quirky, poetic name, all which are hand-painted on the restaurant’s front wall. One of Strecker’s favorites, a savory blend of garlic, onion, paprika, and lime, dubbed Ode to Neruda, is a nod at the 20th century Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The Mayan Chocolate Muse is a not-too-sweet combo of cocoa, sugar, cayenne, cinnamon, and coffee. Order it in a hot-buttered coffee ($5) for a rich, bulletproof-style cup of joe.
Bella La Crema’s day-to-night menu changes regularly, but there are a few mainstays like the white bean and ham stew, charcuterie boards, and of course, the butter flights. Rotating dishes include eggplant Parmesan with pappardelle; fried chicken with collard greens and cornbread; cavatappi with house-made meatballs; and a quiche of the day.
During the state-mandated restaurant closures this past spring, Strecker focused on offering takeout and hosting virtual events. She’s thrown Zoom wine and cheese parties, cooking demonstrations, and even led a few kids-cook-for-their-parents nights during which she talked pint-size chefs through making baguette pizzas.
While Bella La Crema still sells meals for curbside pick up, it is also offering first-come, first-serve patio dining or indoor seating by reservation only. Get your spread on Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.–4 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (hours may vary); call 303-823-8666 or email shaunalee@bellalacrema for more information.
405 Main St., Lyons